Narrating Gender Reality in Japanese Folktale Tradition
Appendix IV: Olrik’s Epic Laws of Folk Narrative: The Opening and the Closing Laws
The present book suggests that storytellers begin their tales with an attractive opening episode in order to engage audiences (and readers) and motivate them to continue listening to (and reading) tales. The position of this hypothesis seems to contradict Olrik’s epic laws, “the law of opening” (das Gesetz des Einganges) and “the law of closing” (das Gesetz des Abschlusses). Therefore, it is necessary to articulate how the central point of Olrik’s epic law differs from the one this book discusses. This can be done by examining opening and ending episodes in order to ascertain the main theme of Japanese Animal-Wife tales. The following discussion will help clarify the similarities and differences between Olrik’s two laws and the hypothesis of this book.
In his discourse on the “epic laws” of narrative in “folktale, myth, legend, and folksong,” Olrik writes:1
I [Olrik] shall mention first the law which is certainly best known to you. The Sage [legends] does not begin with sudden action and does not end abruptly. This is the Law of Opening (das Gesetz des Einganges) and the Law of Closing (das Gesetz des Abschlusses). The Sage begins by moving from calm to excitement, ← 139 | 140 → and after the concluding event, in which a principal character frequently has a catastrophe, the Sage ends by moving from excitement to calm.2
The present book explains that the opening episode in the episodic structures of Japanese Animal-Wife tales characteristically begins with the unknown woman’s...
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